Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Funeral? Funeral Planning 8 Reasons for a Funeral

A funeral has been described as "an organized, purposeful, time-limited, group centered response to death involving rites and ceremonies during some or all of which the body of the deceased is present." A funeral is the way that we take care of the dead -- by properly and honorably disposing of the body, usually through burial or cremation -- and take care of the living by providing the spiritual, social, emotional and practical context in which to take leave of their dead.

Have we always had funerals?

Since the Neanderthals first buried their dead with ceremony, over 40,000 years ago, human societies have always had funerals. Before we had agriculture or an alphabet, humans developed ways to say good-bye to their dead, to honor them, and to remember them.

What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?

A funeral always involves the presence and final disposition of a dead human body as part of the practical and ceremonial obligation.  A memorial service is any service that commemorates a death but does not involve the presence or disposition of the dead.

How much does a funeral cost?

Like health-care, education, housing, or transportation, the range of expenses  related to funerals is a wide one and will depend upon a number of variables.  Staff and professional services, use of facilities, motor equipment, merchandise, cemetery and crematory fees, flowers, music, printing - all of these may be a part of final expenses. What is very helpful is that all funeral home fees are itemized by federal mandate. No discussion of funeral arrangements will be held unless the family has a General Price List in their possession, from which to make informed decisions. The General Price List is available to anyone at anytime who requests one in person at the funeral home, whether or not they are there to make funeral arrangements. Likewise, price information is available over the phone.  For more information on funeral costs, please see our Services page.

How much does a casket cost?

We represent Batesville Caskets, with a full range of caskets available at the funeral home, from the very simple to the very ornate, and everything in between.  In addition to traditional caskets in wood and metal, cremation caskets are available in a variety of combustible materials and wood. At Wilston Funeral Home, we believe that the selection of a casket belongs entirely to the consumer. Our job is to make available the broadest possible selection at the most competitive prices.

Do you have to have a casket for cremation?

For cremation or for burial, all that is required is that the dead body be "in" something so that crematory or cemetery personnel do not have to handle the body themselves. Whether that is a cardboard box or a mahogany box is a matter of indifference to everybody but the family of the deceased, to whom that choice belongs.

Who is authorized to make my funeral arrangements?

Under Pennsylvania law, authorization of funeral arrangements can be made only by the surviving spouse or next-of-kin.

Who is the next of kin?

In general, next-of-kin are determined in the following order: spouse; children; grandchildren; parents; siblings; nieces and nephews; grandparents; aunts and uncles; first cousins. If there are several next-of-kin within the same degree of kinship (for example, the spouse is dead and there are several children living), then most funeral directors will require that all the next-of-kin be in agreement before proceeding. The law has no provision for "majority rule." If problems reaching agreement are anticipated, it is best to work out an understanding or accommodation prior to death in order to avoid delays and legal entanglements once the death has occurred.

What happens when a death occurs at home?

A sudden or unexpected death at home or other private residence when a physician is not present should be reported to the local law enforcement authority immediately. Do not disturb the body. When the police arrive, they will notify the proper authorities for removal of the body. Let the police know your preference of funeral home. Depending on the circumstances of death, it may be required that the remains be first transported to and/or released by the County Medical Examiner. When death at home is anticipated, normally the patient is under Hospice care. When the death occurs, you should contact Hospice. Hospice will often facilitate many of the procedures listed above, including contact with the funeral home of your choice.

What happens when a death occurs away from home?

If you are traveling (or living away from your home town) immediately contact your home town funeral director who will be able to make the necessary professional contacts for you (including, if necessary, a funeral home in the location of the death), usually within minutes, often avoiding costs resulting from duplication of services.

What happens when a death occurs overseas?

If death occurs in a foreign country, the U.S. Consulate in that country can assist in making arrangements. These arrangements vary in cost and can be very expensive, so be sure to insist upon careful cost estimates. Also be sure to obtain at least ten English translations of the death certificate at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

When should funeral arrangements be made?

There is no especially "right" time to make funeral arrangements. Many families find that planning ahead puts their mind at ease, and for these families pre-arrangements may be very helpful. As many families feel that they need not make these difficult decisions until they have to, and for these families making  arrangements when a death occurs makes most sense. For many families attached to religious or ethnic traditions, the arrangements and decisions are fairly simple, following a pattern long established by their church or culture. There is no time when information, education, and open discussion of these matters is not useful. Still, no one can "pre-feel" their feelings or "pre-grieve" their grief, even though they may pre-arrange a funeral.

Why plan your funeral ahead of time?

Planning ahead most importantly ensures that your personal funeral preferences and wishes are satisfied.

When making funeral arrangements, many decisions need to be made.  Planning ahead allows you, as well as your family, to be active participants in the arrangement and planning process.

Planning ahead ensures that your family is not left with a financial burden.

Although not required, funding a funeral ahead of time ensures that the  cost of the funeral is guaranteed with our funeral home, unlike most other funeral homes.

Planning ahead allows you to set aside funds prior to entering a long term care situation.

Can you plan a funeral ahead of time without funding?

YES.  Although there are many advantages to funding a funeral ahead of time at today's costs, funding ahead of time is not required. It is just as important to have your wishes on record at the funeral home.

What is the first step in funeral planning?
We have an informational questionnaire to help you get started on the many questions which are involved in planning a funeral in advance.  We at the funeral home use this form to compile legal documents and obituary information.

8 Reasons for a Funeral


Acknowledges that a life has been lived.


Allows mourners to remember and honor their loved one in a special way.


Serves as a central gathering place for family and friends to give emotional and physical support to one another.


Provides closure for the bereaved.


Initiates the grieving process.


Confirms the reality and finality of the death.


Encourages mourners to face the pain of their loss and express their thoughts and feelings.


Helps survivors to better cope with their grief and enables them to move forward with their lives.